PNC Bank is a good choice for people who want to improve their savings and budgeting habits if they live in one of the eastern states where the bank has a presence. PNC Virtual Wallet's online account management tools are more comprehensive than similar services at other banks. PNC also partners with many universities to provide on-campus banking services and financial education programs, making it a convenient choice for students attending any of those schools.
Review: Should You Open a PNC Bank Account?
PNC makes sense for students at its partner schools and anyone who needs an extensive set of budgeting and savings features; however, you will need to keep $500 in the bank to avoid monthly fees. It only has branch locations in 19 eastern states, and lacks the coast-to-coast availability that other banks like Chase and Bank of America have.
While PNC doesn't offer the highest interest rates on its deposit accounts, it does charge low monthly fees, and it also lets you waive those fees not only with a minimum balance but also with minimum direct deposits. Even PNC's premium accounts allow you to waive fees through direct deposit, a policy most banks don't follow. In addition, the saving and budgeting tools add a way to organize your finances with the Virtual Wallet account package. A few other banks also package checking and savings accounts together, but PNC's Virtual Wallet actually provides tools to help you use the accounts together in a logical way.
If you're a college student, PNC won't charge you any monthly account fees on Virtual Wallet as long as you are enrolled. You should also look at PNC if your parents bank there, since transfers are faster and cheaper between accounts held within the same bank. And if your school is partnered with PNC, there may be classes in financial education and money management provided jointly by the bank and your school, which may give you a good introduction to personal finance. PNC's account management tools are another way to help you learn to handle your own money.
PNC does not operate in New England or the western U.S. If you don't live in PNC's service area, the $3 out-of-network ATM fee makes it expensive to access cash. Besides Virtual Wallet, you won't find anything significantly better about PNC's account options compared to those of its competitors. Its certificates of deposit (CDs), for example, compare poorly to the rates at online-only banks like Ally.
PNC Checking Account Features
PNC offers four checking accounts, although it does not advertise Foundation Checking, which is a second chance checking account. We've compared a few of the key figures and fees among the four options.
|PNC Foundation Checking|
|PNC Standard Checking|
|PNC Performance Checking|
|PNC Performance Select Checking|
Compared to almost every other brick-and-mortar bank, PNC Bank charges lower monthly checking account fees and also requires much lower minimum balances to waive the fees. This may be important if you feel your current checking account ties up too much money, either in fees or in meeting the minimums to avoid fees. PNC also lets you waive account fees with direct deposits. Even if your balance tends to be low, you can still enjoy free checking as long as your account receives $500 in direct deposits each month.
PNC does fall behind in its ATM policies: only Performance Select Checking offers $0 in non-network fees, along with just $10 in monthly reimbursements for ATM fees charged by operators. This makes PNC a weaker choice for people outside the reach of its physical branches and ATMs. And although Virtual Wallet offers a great deal of online management, it can't make up for the simple fact that you'll have to pay ATM fees each time you need cash.
PNC Savings Account Features
There's little to distinguish PNC's savings accounts from other traditional banks. The APYs are lower and the required balances are higher than what you can find with online-only savings accounts, some of which we examine in our guide to the best savings accounts.
|PNC Regular Savings|
|PNC Savings Max|
|PNC Premiere Money Market|
|PNC 'S' is for Savings|
If you don't opt for the Virtual Wallet package and open just a single savings account, your interest rate will drop from the relationship bonus of 0.06% to the standard 0.01%. As long as you maintain the minimum waiver balance or set up automatic transfers of at least $25 from your checking, you won't be charged a maintenance fee. Most people won't join PNC just for its interest rates, but the bank's options for savings goals and automatic transfer setup can be useful if you need motivation to save.
How Does PNC Compare to Other Banks?
Because bank accounts can be very similar across major institutions, we've provided head-to-head comparisons between PNC Bank and a few of its largest competitors.
PNC vs. Chase
Chase is a bigger bank than PNC, with wider national coverage. It also offers better sign-up bonuses than PNC, giving new customers $200 for a checking account with direct deposit, and $150 for a savings account with at least $10,000 deposited in the first 10 days. Chase is a better candidate than PNC if you don't mind changing your direct deposit settings and shifting $10,000 to a new bank. However, those looking for the extensive services available in Virtual Wallet may find Chase's online interface somewhat limited.
PNC vs. TD Bank
If you live in New England, TD Bank offers far better access to ATMs and branch locations than PNC. Although TD's minimum balances to waive monthly fees are lower than PNC's, it does not allow any direct deposit waivers. If you plan on setting up direct deposits, PNC is a better option. TD Bank charges no transaction fee on international debit card usage, which may benefit people who travel and use debit cards abroad — although travel rewards credit cards may be a more efficient international spending option.
PNC vs. Bank of America
Bank of America is another bank with much wider coverage than PNC, but it offers a much slimmer range of deposit accounts. If you have a lot of money to deposit, the multiple account tiers at PNC may contain better features and benefits. PNC Bank's standard checking account charges a lower monthly fee than Bank of America's, and it only requires a balance of $500 to waive the fee. However, the two accounts have similarly low direct deposit requirements, so if you can set up direct deposits, they should work equally well.
PNC vs. US Bank
Both PNC and US Bank charge lower-than-average monthly fees, although PNC makes it a little easier to waive them for standard customers. You might choose PNC if you write checks, since the standard U.S. Bank checking account does not offer free check writing. U.S. Bank's premium accounts do come with checks, and they also offer lower ATM fees and reimbursements for surcharges from ATM providers. If you're seeking extra perks and banking benefits, U.S. Bank's Platinum or Premium account may be worth the larger deposits required to waive the monthly fees.